The International Criminal Court's Pre-Trial Chamber I on June 30 issued arrest warrants for three individuals for alleged war crimes committed during the Russia-Georgia war in 2008. Russian nationals Mikhail Mayramovich Mindzaev and Gamlet Guchmazov, along with Georgian national David Georgiyevich Sanakoev are charged with various war crimes, including illegal detention, torture and inhumane treatment, hostage-taking, and illegal transfer of civilians. The ICC says the crimes were committed in August 2008, when the three were fighting for the Russian-backed South Ossetian separatist forces.
The de facto president of South Ossetia, Alan Gagloev, on May 30 suspended a planned referendum to determine whether the breakaway region of Georgia should join the Russian Federation. The referendum, scheduled for July, had been ordered by decree of Gagloev's predecessor Anatoly Bibilov, and was widely seen as a play to cement his grip on power. However, Bibilov lost his bid for reelection earlier in May, bringing his rival Gagloev to the presidency. In calling off the vote, Gagloev said that the Kremlin must be consulted on "issues related to the further integration of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation." Georgian officials had denounced any moves by South Ossetia to join Russia as "unacceptable."
A series of blasts tore through the building of the de facto "Ministry of State Security" in Tiraspol, capital of Moldova's separatist-controlled enclave of Transnistria, on April 25. Officials said the building was fired on by unknown assailants with grenade launchers. Video footage showed windows and doors blown out, although there were no reports of casualties. (Reuters) Ominously, the attack comes one day after a Russian military commander openly broached extending Moscow's war in Ukraine to neighboring Moldova.
Police detained more than 4,300 people in over 50 cities across Russia on March 6, as activists mounted a second wave of protests against the invasion of Ukraine. From Moscow and St. Petersburg to the Siberian city of Irkutsk and the Pacific port of Vladivostok, thousands of unpermitted demonstrators chanted "No to war!" and "Shame on you!"—a message directed at President Vladimir Putin. In the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, a mural glorifying Putin was defaced—prompting a charge by the riot police. The independent monitoring group OVD-Info reports that over 8,000 have now been arrested in anti-war protests across Russia since the Ukraine invasion was launched last week.
LGBT activists in Georgia cancelled a Pride march in the capital Tbilisi after violent attacks from right-wing groups July 5. Activists began five days of Pride celebrations last week which were to culminate in a "March for Dignity" in central Tbilisi, despite opposition from the Orthodox Church and conservatives who said the event had no place in Georgia. But as marchers were gathering, they were set upon by counter-protesters, who ransacked the office of the organizers. "The situation is really bad," Tbilisi Pride director Giorgi Tabagari told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone, saying he is still being stalked and threatened by mobs, and that some members of his team have gone into hiding in fear for their lives. (EuroNews, Openly)
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced on May 21 that the United States would formally submit notice the following day of its intent to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, a post-Cold War trust-building measure signed in 1992 by the US, Russia and 33 other countries. The treaty, which took effect in 2002, allows each state-party to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over each others' entire territories to collect intelligence on military forces and activities. In accordance with Article XV, the US withdrawal will take effect six months after formally submitting notice. In a letter addressed to Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and President Trump, Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Adam Smith (D-WA) protest that the withdrawal is in violation of Section 1234 of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires the president to notify Congress at least 120 days before giving formal notice of intent to withdraw from the treaty. (Jurist)
A massive protest encampment erected in front of Tbilisi's parliament building demanding the resignation of Georgia's government prompted President Georgi Margvelashvili to meet with demonstration leaders June 1, and remove his chief prosecutor. The latest round of mass protests began May 31, over accusations of a government cover-up in the slaying of two youths. But pressure had been building for weeks. The first protests broke out in mid-May to demand drug legalization after a series of police raids on nightclubs. Gay rights advocates took to the streets to mark the International Day Against Homophobia May 17—but were confronted by organized gangs of neo-Nazis, who tried to intimidate them into dispersing, giving Hitler salutes and chanting "death to the enemy!" Georgia’s State Security Service issued a warning to the group calling itself the "Nationalist Socialist Movement—National Unity of Georgia" to abstain from using Nazi symbols in public. Public display of either Nazi or Soviet symbols is illegal in Georgia. The protest wave indicates a new generation tired of rule by ex-Soviet elites coming of age—but starkly divided between more liberal and harshly reactionary currents. (RFE/RL, OC Media, June 1; RFE/RL, May 30; OC Media, May 18)
Russian state propaganda outlet Sputnik is crowing about the referendum results in Georgia's separatist enclave of South Ossetia, which has just voted to change its name to "Alania"—technically, the hybrid name of "Republic of South Ossetia—State of Alania." As Civil Georgia website explains, the political logic here is that it is a move toward union with the adjoining Russian province of North Ossetia-Alania. Pravda openly boasts in a headline: "South Ossetia wants to join Russia like Crimea." Kyiv Post informs us that Ukraine is not recognizing the "pseudo-elections in South Ossetia." NATO is also rejecting the "illegitimate elections and referendum in Georgia’s occupied territories." The US State Department likewise issued a statement condemnining the "illegitimate elections and referenda in Georgia's occupied territories." So it is pretty clear how the autonomist aspirations of the Ossetians (however legitimate) have been successfully exploited in the Great Game.